High season on Pico

It has already been over two weeks since my last post and these weeks have been crazy! Loads and loads of people were coming over to dive with us – which is a good thing of course! Days from 08:00 until 21:00 are normal and being out on the ocean for 6 hours a day as well. Becoming the manager of the center was a great choice, but not for my free time… Since I’m here, I’ve only had four days off. For sure I’ll compensate this once September comes 🙂

So far, I haven’t had any second of regret about leaving my ‘normal’ life as Process Engineer in Amsterdam behind me – even with these long days and almost no spare time, it has been a fantastic experience and I want more of it! Doing what you love, not wasting time on doing something that isn’t your passion, is the most important thing I’ve discovered. I had it all, a beautiful house, a good job, lots of nice things to do, but something was missing. And even though it can be tough at times, I wouldn’t change back!

Tanks, tanks, tanks…

At the peak, we were using over 60(!!) tanks a day, and it’s a whole lot of work to get that ready for the next day! Luckily the compressor we have does 1000 litres per minute, making it take about 20 minutes to take 9 tanks back to 220 bar.

In the beginning of the season, we were having about 40 steel tanks, but then delivery of brand new 80 cuft aluminum tanks arrived – in Horta. Taking Reefcat, our Powercatamaran, we went to pick them up. 95 tanks in total, some double-12’s, SPG’s, wings and other small stuff. 2 huge boxes on a pallet and a small one. Loading this on the boat was the first challenge, as the seat on the back of the boat was exactly big enough not to allow the pallets on the boat. We moved the seat and managed to fit the pallets – but then Duarte, the most talkative skipper of Pico, wanted to have it arranged differently. Having moved it around 3 times he was satisfied and we could head back to Madalena.

And then came the people

From half July, it’s time for the big group bookings. On one side this makes everything quite easy, especially when the whole group has the same package, but it makes for a hell of a load of planning work with all the separate booked divers and walk-ins around. This year, we’ve been very low on staff ever since the beginning and that doesn’t make it easier in these weeks. I can tell you, managing the centre and doing two dives in the morning and two in the afternoon don’t go hand-in-hand. Luckily the first group, 18 Danish, were very lucky with the weather which allowed us to plan however we wanted everything.

Just when we were almost finishing the first group, my staff planning became a hell of a lot more difficult with me spraining my ankle badly, taking me out of the diving roster even until now. I was forced to stay home for two days and still I’m walking like an old man. Slowly it’s getting better, but pff, I can’t wait to get back in the water. The good thing is I can fully focus on planning and managing, but I want to meet my great love again – the sharks. The coming week I’ll try getting in the water again because I cannot take it any longer!!

Festa time!

High season also means there are party’s all around. Truly work hard, play hard. A couple of days here, a couple of days there… And not the party you’d expect on such a remote location as the Azores. It’s huge! People seem to appear out of nowhere as all the parkings, campgrounds and B&B’s are full. Food, beers, cocktails, DJ’s, live music, you name it, it’s there. In June there’s a couple of small local one or two day festa’s, but July is something else. The one in Madalena goes on for 5 days, then it moves to Sao Roque a week later and in the beginning of August everybody goes towards Horta to enjoy the festa.

It’s incredible, the amount of partying these Portugese can have – I have the feeling they’re saving themselves the whole year for these couple of weeks. In Madalena I ended up going twice, both making starting the next day at 08:00 a huge challenge. This week, Frank was kind to have Reefcat going to Horta at 21:00 and coming back at 03:00 – making it a doable endeavour. Some of my coworkers were brave enough to go two days earlier and take the first ferry in the morning. I wouldn’t have survived this at the moment. It seems that passing the 30 makes your party-going and no-sleep skills to dissipate into thin air. Nevertheless, it was great fun! If you’re planning to come to Pico or Faial in the next years, make sure you don’t miss out on the Festa season!

Writing this story, I just realised I still haven’t told anything about our liveaboard boat Narobla, Princess Alice and my future plans… As it’s already getting late, I’ll keep that for the next post. What would you like to hear about first? 🙂

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